RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas – When, last fall, DHR Health announced it was ending its affiliation agreement with UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, there was concern in Starr County.
That is because county leaders were eagerly anticipating a residency program DHR had promised. A medical residency is the period of training a doctor undertakes after completing studies at a medical school.
If UTRGV SOM was not going to be the medical school DHR worked with, who was?
A physician affiliated with DHR may have given the people of Starr County a clue. In a video interview that aired during the Rio Grande City Mayor Joel Villarreal’s 2023 State of the City Address, Dr. Gauri G. Kanhere (pictured above) spoke about the DHR residency program.
Asked which medical school the DHR residency program will be affiliated with, Kanhere said: “So there are conversations going on with Baylor University as well as with Texas A&M, and there’s definitely going to be some kind of in affiliation with a university program.”
Dr. Kanhere, is an internist with her own practice in Rio Grande City. She also works at Starr County Memorial Hospital. Kanhere received her medical degree from B.J. Medical College at the University of Pune in India. She has been in practice for more than 20 years.
Kanhere was interviewed by Becky Rubio, a hospitality professional for Rio Grande City CISD.
Kanhere said told Rubio that a DHR residency program would be an exciting proposition for Starr County. She said there would be three new doctors coming to the county each year for a three-year residency.
“It’s a three-year program in family medicine and internal medicine, which will translate into 24 doctors every three years,” Kanhere said. “At any given time, there’s going to be physicians that are going to be in the clinics, physicians that are going to be in the hospital. So it is definitely going to help boost health care.”
Kanhere said that “right off the bat” the eight residents that will come to Starr County will already be physicians.
“So, under the supervision of another doctor they’re going to work in clinics, in the hospital. So it’s going to help the already burdened healthcare that we have.”
Kanhere said statistics show that 60% of residents stay in the geographic area in which they trained.
“That is the biggest plus because that means we’re going to retain some of these physicians and it’s going to help the healthcare in this county, the city of Rio Grande, and the city of Roma and even San Isidro, and Zapata,” Kanhere said.
“I think that it’s our way of attracting physicians and bringing more health-related activities to the county. There’s going to be a big research center because you have residents. There’s going to be a full-fledged lab. So I think all of this is going to improve the already improving healthcare that we have.”
Asked what the DHR residency program would mean for the area, Dr. Kanhere said:
“It’s going to be a big boost for the economy because not only is it going to bring increased healthcare-related activities, but just with the eight residents every year, we’re going to have 24 residents over a three-year span and you know, that just continues and you have their families, the related healthcare that they need.”
Kanhere added: “That translates into more jobs, more housing, more restaurants, and it increases the tax base for the county and the city and that boosts more economic growth and development. I think the economy already has an economic boom, and it’s going to be a bigger boom. So, we’re going to go from great to greater, which is why I think we worked hard for this for our community. Finally we’re seeing the results of all this hard work that community leaders have put in.”
After playing the video, Mayor Villarreal gave his opinion on what the residency program will mean.
“It is transformational, when you’re looking at what it means for a community, a small community,” Villarreal said. “It’s going to benefit us all. It is going to benefit Rio Grande City, Roma, La Grulla, Escobares, all of Starr County, Zapata County, Mexico, western Hidalgo County. This is huge, and it’s transformative.”
Villarreal said there are so many people that need to be thanked for working on the residency program.
“DHR Health, the Starr County Memorial Hospital and its hospital board, Dr. Vazquez, the group, others I have mentioned, Dr. Kanhere. She’s very active in that.”
Dr. Jose Vazquez is president of the board at Starr County Memorial Hospital.
Villarreal said the Rio Grande City Economic Development Corporation and Starr County Industrial Foundation have each pumped $1.3 million into the program.
Editor’s Note: Here is an audio recording of the remarks Mayor Villarreal and Dr. Kanhere made about the medical residency program coming to Starr County:
Termination of the UTRGV/DHR Health Affiliation Agreement
On October 12, 2022, UTRGV issued a statement about the ending of its affiliation agreement with DHR Health. Here it is:
October 12, 2022
Dear UTRGV Family,
We learned Monday afternoon that DHR Health has unilaterally decided to terminate our Affiliation Agreement and end its role as a teaching site for UTRGV residents and fellows.
This type of termination between health systems and universities is not unusual, but in the spirit of transparency, we wanted you to hear the news from us first.
Please know that we do not view this termination as problematic nor was it unexpected. This latest development is part of UTRGV’s natural evolution and undoubtedly reflects the fact that our healthcare mission no longer aligns with a for-profit, physician-owned health system like DHR Health.
However, we are very proud of our progress since initially executing the Affiliation Agreement with DHR Health in May 2016. The lives we have positively impacted, and the programs we have sponsored are all accomplishments that have helped us reach this next stage. We would like to thank the DHR community for its considerations and appreciate the educational opportunities afforded to our UTRGV resident physicians and fellows through the partnership, and we wish DHR Health nothing but the best in their future endeavors.
UTRGV currently has Affiliation Agreements with three other hospitals across the Valley and we are discussing other possible partnerships. Additionally, on Friday, we will break ground on the new UT Health RGV Cancer and Surgery Center, a $145-million, 144,000-square foot facility, that is part of phase one development of UTRGV’s McAllen Academic Medical Campus. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, a world leader in cancer care and research, will provide oncology advisory services to develop and launch the program.
What does this mean for our residents and fellows?
Rest reassured that as the Sponsoring Institution where these residency programs reside, UTRGV is dedicated to our mission and committed to the academic and clinical education of our residents and fellows through the completion of training. We are notifying the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) – who granted accreditation to UTRGV for these residency programs – of this circumstance and will work with the ACGME Institutional Review Committee as we support our programs during this transition period.
We will work tirelessly and cooperatively to ensure the completion of training and a smooth wind down and transition of the UTRGV residency and fellowship programs based at DHR Health. The Affiliation Agreement allows for a multi-year sunset period, and we will operate under that timeline.
What if I currently see a UTRGV physician at DHR Health?
If you are a patient under the care of a UTRGV-employed physician located at DHR Health, there will be no immediate impact on your healthcare services at that site. Over time, those clinical services provided by UTRGV physicians will be transitioned to a UTRGV site, and you will receive advanced notice well ahead of those changes.
If you have any other questions or concerns, please email [email protected].
Guy Bailey, Ph.D.
Michael B. Hocker, MD, MHS
Dean, School of Medicine
Senior Vice President, UT Health RGV